Mansfield Fox

Law student. Yankees fan. Massive fraggle. Just living the American dream.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, ALL It's been a good year for the Fox, so I'm thankful for a lot of things. I won't get into them all, because I'm itching to throw myself at one of those big-breasted beauties. A special thanks, of course, to the brave men and women of the United States armed forces, especially those over in those pee-pee-soaked heck holes, Afghanistan and Iraq. My former boss, Karl Zinsmeister, said it better yesterday. Take it away, Karl!

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

FETISHISM AND THE THIRTEENTH AMENDMENT This story begs a question: could Congress impose a nationwide ban on bondage and domination fetishism under its Thirteenth Amendment powers? After all, the Supreme Court has ruled that Congress' power doesn't just extend to forbidding slavery itself, but also includes banning "badges of servitude". Perhaps the voluntary participation of the parties is the key. But then again, no one (except maybe the most hard-core libertarian) would suggest that Congress couldn't forbid a person to sell themselves into slavery, even voluntarily.

Monday, November 24, 2003

DAMN YOU, CHEAP MELODRAMA! So I caved and watched the finale of Joe Millionaire 2. So gratifying, in the way only unbelievably cheap melodrama can be. Damn FOX! Why must you toy with my emotions like this? God, I need a hankie....

Sunday, November 23, 2003

J! E! T! S! JETS! JETS! JETS! Oh, what a sweet comeback. Pennington looks like a yokel, but God-damn he's good. What a magnificently executed drive. Take it away, Fireman Ed....
(turn up your speakers)
IT'S FASHIONABLE TO DISS FOX NEWS and I'll admit they deserve a lot of what they get. But ponder this: right now, Fox is covering the massive demonstrations in Georgia against President Shevardnadze. CNN, having just finished a report on whether eating fatty foods can cause joint pain, is talking about the media circus around Michael Jackson's arrest. Which one is the news channel for grown-ups, again?
MMMMMM...GERMANILICIOUS... Got this story from Drudge. To me, the strangest part of this quite strange tale comes at the end of the article, where it says:

Prosecutors are seeking a conviction of murder for "sexual satisfaction", as cannibalism is not technically illegal under German law.

I'm sorry, wha? I would have guessed making cannibalism illegal would be kind of a no-brainer. Note to self: when in Germany, do not use marinade as cologne.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

SATURDAY EVENING QUARTERBACK That was a painful loss today. Harvard was the better team, especially their linemen. Harvard's QB Fitzpatrick had all the time in the world when he dropped back. He got enough reads to finish Moby Dick. The wonderfully named Eli QB Alvin Cown, on the other hand, was under intense pressure the whole game, and it showed. Never let anyone tell you that linemen aren't important. dey iz.

The most frustrating part was that, even though they were outmatched by the Crimson at most positions, the Elis could have won the game, if only Coach Jack Siedlecki hadn't come down with a bad case of world-historical-bad-play-calling-itis. Yale was stopped on the goal line two separate times. Both times, it seemed like there was no plan beyond the next play - always a disastrous idea. First time: six-odd minutes in the first half, Yale down 10-3. First and goal on the three. Run up the middle. Run up the middle. Draw play. So: it's fourth-and-goal on about the two. What do you do? You go for it! If you score, you tie the game. If you don't, you've pinned the opposing team deep in their own territory, with enough time left that a little good D can get you the ball back before the half with decent field position. What does Siedlecki call for? The gimme field goal. Yale pulls within four. But Harvard gets a great runback on the kickoff, and turns their good field position into a drive up the field for another touchdown. And, of course, the Crimson never look back.

So, it's the third quarter. The score is 24-13 Harvard. Yale is in the red zone again. Run right. Run left. Incomplete pass. It's fourth and goal on the four-ish. What do you do? You kick the field goal! Pull to within eight, and pray your defense can hold up. Harvard had been killing Yale in short yardage situations all day. What on earth made Siedlecki have faith that his team could convert on fourth-and-four, but not fourth-and-one? Why are you going into panic mode in the mid third quarter, when you're still within two scores? But of course not. Instead, Cowan throws an incomplete pass. And Yale never really challenges again.

Look: I don't pretend to be a football expert, or anything. But it seems to me pretty obvious that you should take chances in the first half, and in the fourth quarter if you're trailing and have to.

Is there any way one of the people wants to come up to New Haven to help us out? I mean: why should the Gators have all the fun?

Friday, November 21, 2003

COUNTERFACTUAL HISTORY IS A PET INTEREST OF MINE, so part of me is glad to see it making an appearance in a mainstream journal like the Times. But most of me is peeved at the low quality of the counterfactual here. I'll give Hamilton credit for admitting that "counterfactual history is not only an inexact science, it is quackery." Of course even the best counterfactuals have zero predictive power; the world's far too complex for even the smartest of us to accurately predict what would have happened if, say, JFK hadn't been assassinated. But quality counterfactual history is two things: plausible and non-self-contradictory. Hamilton's work fails on both accounts.

The standards of plausibility are pretty relaxed here, since by definition the best argument I can make is "my fake history is much more likely than your fake history." I think you can hold these fake histories to a higher standard with regard to consistency, though, and that's where Hamilton's piece really falls apart. A mini-fisking:

1. In his JFK-not-assassinated world, Hamilton repeated has civil rights legislation fail during the 1961-1969 Kennedy administration. That's plausible, since some combination of the martyred president's memory and President Johnson's arm-twisting in the Senate were probably the sine qua non of the passage of the Civil Rights Act. But what's crazy is that, he has Martin Luther King, Jr. being appointed to the vice presidency (LBJ dies of a heart attack shortly after he's elected and vice president RFK becomes the new POTUS, creating a vacancy in the #2 spot) three years after the Civil Rights Act is voted down a second time. Does it seem even remotely plausible that a Congress that wouldn't vote for civil rights legislation would nonetheless install in office a black vice president?

2. George H.W. Bush is Reagan's running mate in 1972. That doesn't make any sense. Reagan in '72 is plausible. He was governor of California, a national figure who could possibly have been swept into office by a massive backlash by whites against a Supreme Court-ordered busing plan. But Poppy Bush? Where was he in '72? In our world, he was ambassador to the United Nations, a former Representative, and a twice-failed Senate candidate. Not exactly the stuff that vice presidencies are made of. And in Hamilton's world, he'd probably be even less than that, since it's unlikely that President Robert Kennedy would have named George Bush as his UN ambassador. So H.W. is what, then? The Representative from the 7th District of Connecticut? The president of Zapata Oil?

This is a good example of the "real events" problem that can plague counterfactual history. It would seem intuitively right that bringing in more real-world details into your counterfactual would make it more plausible. Hence the importation of Reagan-Bush from our world. The problem is that if you don't do it right, the imported facts don't fit, and it makes the whole project look weird.

There are a bunch of other problems with the piece, and I could go on for hours, but a) that's boring, and b) I need to get back to work. ["On a Friday night?" Yes, on a Friday night. Damn you, brief-writing assignments!] So adieu for now, sweet blogosphere...
A HYPOTHETICAL OF MINE OWN Yesterday Jacob Levy of the Volokh Conspiracy posed as a hypothetical question: Would a state law denying marriage to infertile heterosexual couples be constitutional? He's gotten some good responses, and I'm not sure I have anything insightful to add. But I will pose a hypothetical of my own: would it be constitutional for a state to abolish civil marriage altogether, for all groups?
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY = EDGAR CAYCE? First, gay marriage. Now, co-ed bathrooms. Is there any way I can borrow her for the afternoon and go to the race track?

Thursday, November 20, 2003

I'LL ADMIT IT: I THINK SOCCER SUCKS. But even I can't help but be touched by this story. I know large parts of Iraq are in a large way a total shit-show right now, but it's worth remembering a) that large swathes of the country are in fact returning to normalcy, and b) just how fucked up a country Iraq was only nine months ago.

Memo to MLS: after signing Freddy Adu, the best thing you can do to increase your sport's popularity is to send an all-star team over to Iraq to play against these guys. Hype it up bigtime, broadcast it on network TV in primetime (maybe made difficult because of the time difference), have Paul Bremer and the Iraqi Governing Council put in an appearance at the game. Nothing deadly serious or anything - no 1980 "miracle on ice" overtones - but just some friendly competition between us and the Iraqis. And since the Iraqis would probably win, it'd probably help ease the humiliation of how badly we handed them their asses last spring. This is a potentially huge PR coup, for the Provisional Authority in Iraq and for MLS in the United States.

(link via Instapundit)
MY KIND HAS ALWAYS BEEN FEARED An interesting question: why don't Anglosphere countries elect hirsute leaders? The last American president with any facial hair at all was Taft, who left office almost 87 years ago. Are we really that untrustworthy-looking?

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

MY ONE COMPLAINT, and it's a small one: what's with all the wings? I mean, I understand they've got some kind of angels motif, but still: nobody tuned in to see no damn 10-foot tall wire-mesh-and-feathers thingies!
WATCHING THE VICTORIA'S SECRET FASHION SHOW on CBS. It's been the greatest seven minutes of my life. I can now die a happy man.
WHAT HAVE MASSHOLES WROUGHT? Charlie Pierce makes an interesting claim in today's Sports Nut over at Slate. He basically says that the 1986 cocaine-overdose death of Boston Celtics draftee Len Bias was the Gulf of Tonkin incident of the War on Drugs. The money graph:

The tragedy was put to immediate use by a bipartisan passel [sic] of opportunistic hysterics led by then-Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill, who demanded a tough new law to placate the angry and mournful Celtics fans among his constituents. ... That October, President Ronald Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which was sort of the drug war's Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and which visited upon ourselves a whole number of really fine ideas, including the mandatory minimum sentences so beloved these days by so many judges.

Now, I'm too young to remember either the death of Len Bias or the Gulf of Tonkin incident, so I can't really comment on the quality of this analogy. I'm curious to hear what any of my more senior readers (which is to say: my dad) think of this. If it's a valid comparison, though, it will only be one more piece of evidence towards my general theory that Boston sports fans are a force for evil in the world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

"LOOK UP! LOOK UP!" No, the Angel hasn't come to Prior Walter. Rather it's me, encouraging you to look at my blog's slightly modified format. If you look up to my blog's subhead, you'll see that I've been upgraded from "charming drunk" to "massive fraggle". It was pointed out to me that should a prospective employer happen upon this little web journal, it might look bad to be seen describing myself as a drunk. It was also pointed out that I'm not even remotely charming. Both true statements.

Why "massive fraggle" you ask? That is an enigma, even to me. I suppose I just like the way it sounds. And sometimes, I guess, I feel like a fraggle, a little; but being man-sized, I'd be a massive one if I were.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to munch some radish while I work on my CivPro brief.
JUST SO'S WE'RE ALL ON THE SAME PAGE, I want to clear up any doubt as to whether my "consanguinosexual marriage" piece from earlier was meant as some kind arguing-in-bad-faith attempt to discredit today's SCoMa decision on same-sex marriage (kind of like a wind-baggier version of what John Derbyshire does here). It wasn't. It was part semi-academic exercise exploring the principles of law as they've been set down, part kidding around, and part serious attempt to get people to consider the interests of a small, and generally ill-regarded sexual minority. That's all, folks. (And no, this post itself is not made in bad faith. The whole damn blog is written in good faith, ok people?)
HMMMM.... 180 DAYS...180 DAYS.... Why, that's mid-May! Wait, does that mean that this issue's going to be hanging around during the entire Democratic primary? And that the final going-into-effect of the country's first state-sanctioned same-sex marriage is going to take place a month-and-a-half before the Democratic Party convention, in the state where that convention will be held, with the key decision handed down less than a mile from the location of that convention?

Is it worth starting an investigation as to whether the 4 judges in the majority are on Karl Rove's payroll?
FAST TURNAROUND IS FAIR PLAY Mansfield Fox: always ready to demonstrate the problems of pontificating on court opinions you haven't actually read. Apparently SCoMa did not "remand" the gay marriage issue to the legislature. (A friend asks: "can courts do that?" I reply: These days, courts can do pretty much anything they damn well please.) It seems that they rather took it upon themselves to read the definition of civil marriage in Mass. as "the voluntary union of two persons as spouses, to the exclusion of all others" and ordered the lower court to issue a decision consistent with their ruling, but then stayed entry of the judgment for 180 days. In that time, the legislature can act to institute same-sex marriages (or maybe civil unions? it's still unclear, but I'm growing more dubious). But if, after those 180 days have elapsed, the legislature hasn't done anything, then the court's decision goes into effect and county clerks (or whoever hands out marriage licenses in Mass.) won't constitutionally be allowed to deny them to same-sex couples any more. (I base my analysis on the words of the right-wingers over at NRO. If I'm wrong here, blame them. Blame me only for relying on them a little too much.)
JUST TO MAKE TROUBLE, I ASK "What about consanguinosexual couples?" As I've said, I haven't read the Goodridge v. Massachusetts opinion for want of a working link, but the gist of the court's reasoning seems to be 1) that marriage is a fundamental right, 2) that denying access to that right to homosexual couples creates a caste of second-class citizens 3) in violation of the Massachusetts Constitution's guarantee of equality of citizenship.

The question, then, is this: why don't these arguments apply with equal force to enforcing the rights of consanguineous couples to marry? After all, if marriage is a fundamental right, then the government must summon up a compelling state interest in order to restrict it, and must do so in a narrowly tailored way. What are the compelling state interests supporting a ban on sibling marriage? I can think of three: morality, tradition, and the public health. But I don't think any of these three will withstand judicial scrutiny.

1. Morality. The ban on consanguineous marriage is justified on the grounds that people think its wrong for siblings to marry one another. But the public morality justification seems no longer to be a valid argument for restricting a fundamental right after Lawrence v. Texas. If a public belief in the wrongness of homosexual sodomy wasn't sufficient ground for a law restricting the fundamental right to private consensual sexual relations, then why would the public belief in the wrongness of sibling marriages be enough to restrict the fundamental right to marry?

2. Tradition. The ban on consanguineous marriage is justified by a kind of constitutional adverse possession. The law in the United States has always barred marriage between siblings. At no point in the drafting of the various "equality" provisions of the federal Constitution or any of the state constitutions did anyone, let alone a majority of people, think those guarantees of equality threatened the laws against incestuous marriage. But the tradition argument seems, at least implicitly, rejected by the Goodridge decision. Surely the denial of marriage rights to homosexual couples has at least as long a pedigree as the laws against sibling marriage. If tradition could not save heterosexual-only marriage, why should it be able to preserve a regime of law that forbids incestuous marriages?

3. Public health. The ban on consanguineous marriage is justified by the risk to the public health created by allowing too-closely-related people to marry and reproduce. The children of consanguineous couples are more likely to suffer from birth defects and diseases related to inbreeding. It is in the public interest to prevent these birth defects and diseases, and a ban on sibling marriage is an acceptable way to achieve that. Even if we accept the idea that incestuous procreation overwhelmingly leads to these problems (and I think the science is far from clear on this point) this justification still won't pass proper constitutional scrutiny.

The problem with the public health justification is that it is significantly under- and over-inclusive. It's over-inclusive in the sense that sterile incestuous couples, who by definition can't breed, are covered under the ban even though they pose none of the public health risk that justified the ban. It's under-inclusive because the ban doesn't cover those non-incestuous couples who nevertheless have the right combination of recessive genes to create those birth defects and diseases should they breed. It's also under-inclusive because it doesn't touch those consanguineous couples that choose to breed outside of marriage, who pose precisely the same risk to the public health as married sibling couples that breed do.

It's also worth considering whether this public health justification is generalizable. Does the state have the right to forbid HIV-positive individuals to marry, on the grounds that they might reproduce and produce HIV-positive offspring? Should the state require couples to submit to genetic testing to determine whether both are carrying the recessive genes for sickle-cell anemia, or hemophillia, and refuse them a marriage license if they do? If we don't think so, then isn't our refusal to grant equal rights to consanguineous couples simply a product of our animus against such couples, no matter how much we dress it up in the language of science and public health?
YOGI NODS Or, as we say in Yankee country, "It ain't over 'till it's over." So the gay marriage issue heads to the Massachusetts legislature. It's unclear whether Goodridge v. Massachusetts requires marriage, or whether civil unions will suffice. And, of course, the legislature can always propose an amendment to the Massachusetts constitution restricting marriage to different-sex couples only.

One interesting thing to note, though: this ain't Vermont, circa 1999. The governor of Massachusetts isn't some Howard Dean liberal. He's a socially conservative Mormon. Any bets as to whether he wants to go down in history as the man who signed into law America's first gay marriage law? Or who took civil unions from being a Vermont-based out-lier and made them mainstream, at least in the blue states?

Oh, this ain't over. Not by a long shot.
ONE MORE STEP IN THE LONG, HARD SLOG towards the equality of homosexual and heterosexual relationships taken today. Though I can't find a working link, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court has just ruled that restricting civil marriage to heterosexual couples violates the Massachusetts state constitution. Here's the money quote, via the Corner:

Marriage is a vital social institution. The exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other nurtures love and mutual support; it brings stability to our society. For those who choose to marry, and for their children, marriage provides an abundance of legal, financial, and social benefits. In return it imposes weighty legal, financial, and social obligations. The question before us is whether, consistent with the Massachusetts Constitution, the Commonwealth may deny the protections, benefits, and obligations conferred by civil marriage to two individuals of the same sex who wish to marry. We conclude that it may not. The Massachusetts Constitution affirms the dignity and equality of all individuals. It forbids the creation of second-class citizens. In reaching our conclusion we have given full deference to the arguments made by the Commonwealth. But it has failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marriage to same-sex couples.

Apparently, however, the court didn't just issue the couple a marriage license, but instead remanded the issue to the legislature. So, as they say in the Commonwealth, dis iddn't ovah.

Monday, November 17, 2003

THIS STORY BEGS AN OBVIOUS QUESTION. Given that the New York Times has arguably the worst sports section of any major newspaper in the country, why exactly does it have a partial say in the BCS rankings? This is like bringing your retarded cousin along to your big bank heist to be the lookout. You knew he was gonna screw it up! What were you thinking?! Same basic principle here, just with more money, and less jail time, on the line.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

MEANWHILE, IN IOWA While the Gay Men's Chorus of Des Moines was busy mangling the national anthem at the Jefferson Jackson Dinner, some Iowans were apparently practicing witchcraft! Or not. I don't usually stand up for witches, but this poor woman sounds like she was just a really crappy babysitter who let things get a little out of hand. To paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen: "Ms. Fernandez, I served with the putrid whore-minions of Satan. I knew the putrid whore-minions of Satan. The putrid whore-minions of Satan were friends of mine. Ma'am, you're no putrid whore-minion of Satan."
CONGRATS TO KATHLEEN BLANCO She's the new governor of Louisiana. Of course, if I'd been a Cajun, I'd've voted for Bobby Jindal. But what can I say? Deep down, I'm a conservative Catholic with a fondness for Bhangra. Which is to say: I'm the white Bobby Jindal, without all the experience and expertise. I certainly hope the Bush administration finds a place for him, preferably higher up, where he's visible and gets to speak a lot. Maybe as some kind of high level undersecretary in HHS, a position from which he can emerge as an eventual successor to Tommy Thompson in 2006 or so. Anyway, though, congratulations to Governor Blanco, who is, if nothing else, living proof that the Democratic Party is not dead in the Old South. Best of luck to her.


Saturday, November 15, 2003

I'M WATCHING THE JEFFERSON JACKSON DINNER on CSPAN right now. I'm sure you're dying to know: who sang the national anthem? Well, I'll tell you. The Gay Men's Choir of Des Moines. I have two thoughts re: the GMCDM. One: they weren't very good. This isn't to speak ill of them. "The Star-Spangled Banner" is a hard one to sing properly. I, for instance, can't do it. But, y'know, if I were gonna sing it on national TV, I'd wanna be able to hit the high notes. Two: I think it says something meaningful about the Democratic Party that they had a not-very-good gay men's choir open at the JJ Dinner. It seems clear to me that it's more important to the Dems to include a gay group than to have a group that could sing the anthem well. And that says something about the Democrats. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing I don't know, and leave to you.
NON-UNIFORMED HAWKS The hubbub over Tom Tomorrow's latest comic seems to have basically died down, but before it disappears entirely, I'd just like to make one point.

There are lots of people who aren't in the military because they can't get into the military. Andrew Sullivan, for instance, is openly gay. Prof. Glenn Reynolds is over 34, and therefore to old to enlist. Or take little ol' me: though I'm young enough and straight enough, I tried to join the army and failed, in no small part because my body is as functional and reliable as a 1972 AMC Gremlin.

My question: is Tom Tomorrow implying that Sullivan, Reynolds and I shouldn't be able to blog in favor of the War on Terror because we haven't done something we're not capable of doing (that is, enlisting in the military)? Don't we get some kind of disability exemption?
LAW SCHOOL BLOGS I've been meaning to direct your attention to Three Years of Hell, a blog by a first-year law student at Columbia. If you want a blog that explores the law school experience, go there. If you want a blog that explores the eschatology of lint, well, I think you know where to go.
QUESTION OF THE DAY For people who have "outie" belly-buttons: where does their lint come to rest? My best guess would be "up the butt", but again, that's just a guess. Drop me an email if you know the answer.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

LOS UGLY AMERICANOS Is there a better ugly American scene in film than the Cuban bar fight in Guys and Dolls? Thin Marlon Brando gets the mission doll drunk, and together they start a massive fist fight in a Havana nightclub. God, that scene practically hums the Star Spangled Banner....
IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF THE INTERNET one poop joke at a time. I'm in today's Best of the Web! The entry to which I contributed, "The World's Silliest Correction" is about 2/3 of the way down the page. In case you doubt my veracity, you can scroll down to the "thanks to"s at the bottom of the page.

I don't think I need to tell you: this is the greatest accomplishment of my young life.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

CHARMING, CHARMING Love that Ted Rall.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

YE GODS! INDEED Tuesday Morning Quarterback, frustrating ESPN's pseudoSoviet attempts to disappear him, has returned! Let there be rejoicing, and feasting, much singing of song!
RON WHITE, SCHMON WHITE Having Ron White as the first base coach is great and all, but it's the secondary story hidden here that I love the most. Luis Sojo as Yankees' third base coach! My favorite all-time Yankee! A man with a body like a dollop of chocolate mousse, but a keen mind and a heaping helping of that all-important, impossible-to-quantify quality we call luck. He was like a squat, ugly Jeter. What a colossal upgrade over Willie Randolph, who never had any idea when to send guys and when to hold them up. What fantastic news. This almost makes up for the ridiculous, and partially racially-tinged story of the two sportswriters who denied Hideki Matsui rookie of the year. Which I might discuss later, but not now, because it'd spoil my fun over our new 3B coach.


Saturday, November 08, 2003

MANSFIELD FOX: RELOADED Saw The Matrix: Revolutions last night with my roommate and his girlfriend, who's in town for a visit. My Good Lord, what a load of crap. Amazingly, it was actually better than I'd expected, if only because I had such sub-basement-level expectations from all the bad reviews I'd read. In that respect, it benefited tremendously from following the boring-cum-confusing The Matrix: Reloaded, which in turn suffered from following the mind-blowing-and-exciting-if-confusing The Matrix.

It's a shame they made the sequels, just like its a shame they made The Next Joe Millionaire. Not just because they're a waste of everyone's time and money. More importantly, they really make me question my fondness for the original. When I came out of The Matrix: Reloaded, I thought to myself "If this is what The Matrix was about, then The Matrix sucked." Needless to say, Revolutions didn't do anything to restore my faith in the non-suckiness of the original. The first movie took a neat idea and made a tight little sci-fi action movie with a very distinct (and very cool) visual style out of it. The sequel took that neat idea and pumped it full of pseudo-philosophical mumbo-jumbo until it was ponderously enormous. In the third movie, they've let out most of the hot air, which is why it isn't as insufferable as the second. But having stretched The Matrix's conceptual skin so much, there was no way to return to the lean, lithe form of the original. So now they've got an enormous, ponderous movie that's filled with nothing. It's just a huge, pointless action movie. Which is fine: I love huge, pointless action movies. But the original Matrix was more than that. ahh, well...

There is a silver lining to all this, though. If the Wachowski brothers were going to ruin the Matrix franchise, I'm glad they got it over with quickly. It took George Lucas twenty years to get around to ruining the Star Wars franchise. In the meantime, a whole generation of geeks, dorks and dweebs (including myself) grew up believing that Star Wars has SERIOUS THINGS TO SAY, about the nature of man, about underlying cross-cultural Jungian patterns of myth and blah blah blah.... In retrospect, of course, it all seems ludicrous. For God's sake, the movie had gay robots in it! And teddy-bear freedom fighters! Why did we take this seriously?!? And yet, we did. And it made the mind-blowing-godawfulness of the prequels all the more painful. They weren't just making the original movies look bad. They were destroying twenty years worth of broadly (and sometimes deeply) held belief that the Star Wars trilogy was about something more than people dressed in ridiculous costumes trying to shoot each other with laser guns while flying around in space ships. The Wachowskis basically killed in the cradle any parallel mythologizing about The Matrix. The Matrix movies are about people dressed in ridiculous costumes trying to shoot each other with automatic weapons while doing cool, gravity defying flips. That's it. Everything else is window dressing.

Friday, November 07, 2003

OLA MAE OUT Apparently Ola Mae Riddick is no longer my alderperson. She was beaten in the election by Drew King, a Democrat. It seems perhaps he beat her in the primary, and she challenged him via a write-in campaign. Needless to say, I have no idea what a King aldermanship will bring to my beloved Mansfield Street. But I shall endeavor to find out and, oh my loyal blog-reader, I will report it, in all its mind-numbing detail.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

EAT IT: IT'S GOOD FOR YOU I just saw a KFC ad which made the pitch that 2 KFC chicken breasts had less fat than a Burger King Whopper. Which is doubtless true, but since an Original Whopper has 43 grams of fat, it's a bit like saying you should shoot yourself with an AK-47, since it's got much less firepower than a howitzer.

I like fatty food as much as the next guy. I'd have to: I'm fat. But marketing fried chicken as healthy is more than a little disingenuous.
VERY EARLY EXIT POLLING DATA INDICATES... Anyone who knows me knows I like to make outrageously bold statements and predictions. I am on record as believing, for instance, that I will die at age 77 by being covertly executed as a political prisoner, probably by means of a low caliber shot to the back of the skull.

In that spirit, Mansfield Fox now presents your 2004 election!

Presidential Popular Vote
Bush (R) 54%
Dean (D) 39%
Kucinich (G) 7%

Presidential Electoral College Vote
Bush (R) 355
Dean (D) 183
Kucinich (G) 0

The electoral vote will be much closer than the lopsided popular vote, chiefly because Bush will pick up large portions of his popular majority in large states like California, Illinois and New York, that he'll lose.

Key Senate Races
Democrats pick up: Alaska, Illinois
Republicans pick up: Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina

Wednesday, November 05, 2003


Tuesday, November 04, 2003

BRAIN...EXPLODING... I've been watching a series of documentaries on String Theory on public television. ARGH! Eleven dimensions. Sparticles. Universe sized-membranes. Disappearing gravitons. What the hell is going on here? God, it makes me wish I'd studied physics. This stuff's really neat.
DAMN YOU, DAVID SCHOENFIELD! This article from Page2 has me salivating at my vertical workstation. I feel like Homer Simpson examining a beer-flavored donut. My favorite part was this trade, which seems almost plausible:

"Nick Johnson and Arizona's Danny Bautista go to St. Louis, Edmonds and Schilling go to New York and Alfonso Soriano and Jeff Weaver go to Arizona."

If you'll excuse me, I have to go change pants.
CONGRATS TO MY PROCEDURE PROFESSOR Harold Hongju Koh, who's just been named the next dean of the Yale Law School. Couldn't've happened to a nicer guy. Or more qualified. What a pimp.
THE IMPORTANCE OF READING MY OWN BLOG CAREFULLY Argh! Looking back on the original post, I now feel my first statement, that there were only two GOP "challengers" was accurate. But my second post (four Republicans running) presents a more accurate picture of the situation. I'm going to stop correcting myself now. My blog is good enough, smart enough, and doggonit, people like it.
THE IMPORTANCE OF READING CAREFULLY Apparently the GOP is running in four wards, not two. They already (narrowly) control two seats, and are hoping to capture an additional two. Clearly I've been playing with the " Conclusions" mat too much lately.
I LIKE THAT FLYER FOR SEVERAL REASONS One: it reveals one of the real oddities of New Haven politics. The opposition party in town isn't the Republicans, its the Green Party. Yale Insider reports that only 2 of the city's 30 districts have Republican challengers (scroll down). This strikes me, who's basically only familiar with national politics, as an odd development. I wonder if there's an analog in Red America - are there any places where there are no Democrats who run for office, and the opposition party is the Libertarians? I suspect not, but I'd be curious to find out.

Another reason I like it is that it has me thinking about one of my favorite topics, eminent domain. I'm not at all sure why I get so jazzed up about such a relatively unsexy topic, but I do. Maybe its the old populist, anti-corporate heart of me. So many eminent domain cases you hear about involve a town seizing people's homes in order to put up a WalMart or a new Toyota factory or somesuch. Cases that really stretch the limits of legitimate eminent domain seizures. As a result, I've become reflexively anti-eminent domain. My gut reaction whenever I hear the phrase is basically "This is an outrage! LAWLESS!"

And that was how I felt when I first heard about this plan. How could they consider tearing down Mamoun's? I love Mamoun's! What a lawless outrage! But now I'm not so sure. A magnet school seems, at least on its face, like a good idea, and one that'll really benefit the kids of New Haven. Maybe Howe & Chapel isn't the best place to put the school. And certainly the aldermen should discuss rather than simply rubber-stamp the proposal. But it seems foolish to me to reflexively oppose a plan that might really do some good just because some of "your favorite eateries" might have to close or be relocated.
SPEAKING OF ELECTIONS On my way back from lunch, I was stopped by electioneers near the Ward 2 polling station and handed the following flyer (reproduced as best I can):

"Do You Want to See Your Favorite Eateries Disappear???!!!
The City and Board of Ed. are proposing to build An Arts and Humanities Co-Op High School on the Block of Howe & Chapel St.

This project will displace and/or effect numerous local businesses, including India Palace, Mamoun's, and Pizza House, and will destroy the heart of a rebounding neighborhood.

The City has announced - after no Community input - thta it will use eminent domain to bulldoze several properties for a replacement Arts Magnet Co-op High School.

The school is currently located near the AUDOBON ARTS DISTRICT in a neighborhood that includes the Educational Center for the Arts, the Neighborhood Music school, the Lincoln Theatre, the Arts Council Performance Space and the Creative Arts Workshop.

YOU can help stop this destructive project.

During this election, the Democratic Party machine is counting on LOW VOTER TURNOUT to take this district away from Joyce Chen, an idependent-minded Green Party Alderman.

They know that Joyce Chen has a record of supporting local business, and remaining independent from machine politics.

HOORAY, ELECTION DAY! America's favorite non-holiday. In honor of the day, I've decided to acquaint myself with local politics.

I've discovered that I live in Ward 22, which covers my side of Mansfield Street, Science Hill, the Law School, the Hall of Graduate Studies, Ezra Styles and Morse Colleges, and the residential neighborhood bounded by Dixwell Avenue, Munson Street and Winchester Street.

My alderwoman is Mae Ola Riddick, who served from 1996-1997 but was turned out of office after a mini-scandal involving some unaccounted-for federal housing funds. (Though she was never charged with anything. See the YDN for more details.) Riddick returned to office in 2001, defeating the woman who'd beaten her, and has served since. I don't know much else about her, I must confess, except that she seems to be some kind of "community activist."

I think tomorrow I'm going to go register to vote in New Haven. Certainly some time this week. No reason to stay registered in NYC anymore: I don't really care about local politics there, and its unlikely the GOP is going to turn the 2004 senate race into a contested one. Connecticut, man: that's where its at!

Monday, November 03, 2003

THERE'S SOME SERIOUS ALLEGATIONS AGAINST THE FRENCH over at Belgravia Dispatch, which apparently spring out of what Tariq Aziz is telling his interrogators about the situation in Iraq on the eve of the war.

It may be, of course, that Aziz is making this up. However, if what he's said is true then this is serious, and a further confirmation of my general sense that the French and Russians need to be taken behind the woodshed.

One note though: assume that Aziz is telling the truth. That means that Saddam didn't order a counterattack in the opening hours of the war because he believed, thanks to French and Russian advice, that the Americans were not serious about invading his country, and that if he just hunkered down and outlasted the airstrikes, the French and Russians would negotiate a ceasefire that would save his hide. An early counterattack would have produced many of the nightmare scenarios envisioned in prewar planning: massive numbers of oilfields set ablaze, Kuwait City and perhaps Riyadh pummelled from the air, perhaps the use of chemical weapons (if they existed) against our troops. At any rate, it would have made the invasion bloodier and more difficult.

In this case, Franco-Russian perfidy may have saved American, Kuwaiti and Iraqi lives, and aided in the overthrow of Saddam. Not deliberately, of course, but nevertheless...

Sunday, November 02, 2003

IRAQ IS A HOT, DUSTY PLACE. It sits on a sea of oil. Apparently, everybody and their mother has a gun there. And now they've got the flat tax. They're more Texas than Texas.